PLYMOUTH, N.H.— Plymouth State University will present the 2012 Granite State Award to John and Cathy Bentwood of Plymouth for their commitment to service reflecting Plymouth State University’s motto, Ut Prosim (That I may serve), at the May 19 graduation ceremony.
“The Bentwoods, as a medical team (he a surgeon and she a registered nurse) and as engaged citizens, have served to reduce human suffering by providing direct aid and assistance to individuals, and guidance and leadership for organizations that offer aid both locally and internationally,” says PSU President Sara Jayne Steen.
Like so many New Hampshire people, John and Cathy came to New Hampshire for a brief sojourn and have stayed for nearly 40 years. What some people see as accomplishments, the Bentwoods see as opportunities. Among their many “opportunities” are creation and maintenance of a free annual cancer screening clinic, a regional free health clinic for the uninsured, and a new shelter for people who are homeless.
“Skin cancers were on the rise. John was talented at identifying and treating these lesions and I was pretty good at starting things that seem doable,” Cathy remembers. One day every July was dedicated to diagnosing skin lesions. Between 90–110 folks would begin lining up outside the door at 8:30 a.m. We didn’t break for lunch; just saw everyone until the last patient left. We got a lot done in an extremely efficient, neighborly way, and no one paid a dime (though sometimes patients delivered homemade cookies the following week),” she said.
The regional free clinic, a team effort, was a little different, but a natural extension nonetheless. The cancer screening was available to everyone across the economic spectrum. The Free Clinic was created for folks who had jobs, but found insurance unaffordable.
The Bentwoods are currently excited to be part of a local collaboration of civilians and veterans who are working to solve the housing shortage for those who’ve enlisted in the military. This national, gold standard, Soldier On project will be the first of its kind in New Hampshire.
Beyond the Plymouth area, both have been medical volunteers providing services to people in need, whether in Honduras, Haiti, Africa or post-Katrina Louisiana. In addition to their medical help, the Bentwoods have fostered children, been engaged as court-appointed advocates for children at risk, sponsored and resettled refugee families from Vietnam, Rwanda and Honduras, and developed educational presentations for New Hampshire legislators by partnering with New Hampshire Peace Action.
The Bentwoods say it has been an honor to be engaged with others in so many capacities. “Successfully advocating for affordable health care—now that would have been an accomplishment; closing the shelter because homelessness was eradicated would have been an accomplishment. We simply became involved in some very satisfying endeavors,” they said.